Sunday, February 13, 2011

The Baptist Down-Grade Controversy all over again in 2011

There is nothing new under the sun. When we look at the Baptist church today and the direction that it is going all we need to do is look back into history to see how history repeats itself. Charles Spurgeon battled for truth and sound doctrine with the Baptist church in the same way as the remnant of good Baptist churches battle with the Conventions today. Read about the down-grade controversy within the Baptist church in the late 1880’s and see if it relates to today.

“By the late 1800s, there was an insipid falling away from God’s Truth that infected many churches, including the Baptists. Some ministers openly preached against the infallibility of the Bible, the deity of Christ and eternal salvation. Those few were censured by the Baptist Union. But many others did so more surreptitiously. In the light of great scientific discoveries, these learned men began to question portions of Scripture or elements of the Trinity. They cast themselves as progressive and modern. Some found a new understanding in the theories of Charles Darwin, and pointed to what they felt were contradictions between Scripture and science – choosing science as their guide. Their congregations followed.

A blind eye was turned toward this apostasy within the Baptist Union and other denominations. It became known as the “Down-Grade” controversy. Spurgeon at first thought it was an exception here and there. But he soon began to see a rapid spread of these ideas and was alarmed at the sudden infusion within his own denomination. Spurgeon was a very sick man by this point, and in fact, was only a few years from death. He likely knew it. And so there was no personal gain for him to enter into such a burgeoning fray at the end of his life. In fact, it probably taxed his failing strength.

Nonetheless, he felt compelled to defend the Gospel. After a number of private conversations and correspondences with men he thought were reducing Scripture, and with S.H. Booth, the secretary of the Baptist Union, he brought the issue into the open in an 1887 Sword and the Trowel article. In the magazine, he issued a general warning to readers of the defection from the Truth that was riddling the Nonconformist churches.

Spurgeon laid out three charges: 1) The infallibility of Scripture from God was denied, 2) the way of salvation through Christ was not preached, and 3) hell was denied, as was any eternal punishment.

It went right to the heart of the Gospel. Many in the camp of science vigorously attacked Spurgeon over religion. He was also attacked through Christian publications and even the pulpit. And shockingly, at the next annual meeting of the Baptist Union, the issue was ignored. There was complete silence.

After repeated attempts to get the Baptist Union to confront the issue, Spurgeon felt he had no choice. He withdrew from the union. By unanimous vote, the congregation of the Tabernacle followed him.

The censure passed by the Baptist Union was a deep wound for Spurgeon. But he had set out his path of defense of Scripture and would not turn back. He was absolutely militant about God’s Word.” (Taken from Spurgeon Gold, p.199-201, compiled by Ray Comfort)

Today most Baptists are not arguing about evolution but we have definitely seen a denying of the infallibility of Scripture. One of the biggest problems we see in the Baptist Church today is the removal of the solid biblical doctrine that the Baptist church was built on and stated in the London Baptist Confession of 1689. Man-centered theology and worldly marketing and business strategy has infiltrated the church leaving Biblical theology and simply relying on preaching Christ and Him crucified at the back door. How desperate do the pulpits of the Baptist church need to be reformed. How desperate do we need to put away man-centered methodologies and return to Baptist roots of reformed theology. Montana pulpits must be reformed before the church becomes insignificant and deader than it already is.


Tim Killillay said...

I appreciate what you wrote and may even use a bit if ever I write on biblical separation. You wrote this quote: "After repeated attempts to get the Baptist Union to confront the issue, Spurgeon felt he had no choice. He withdrew from the union."
Why are so many solid Baptist churches staying in the Southern Baptist Union if indeed they are denying the infallibility of scripture?

Kurt Mustian said...

I believe this accentuates the desperate need for new church plants which relentlessly, and unashamedly proclaim the inspiration, infallibility, authority, and sufficiency of The Word of God are essential today. Many traditional churches won't accept sound Biblical doctrine - as I can attest. Time is too short to continue the feeble attempt of 'putting new wine in old wine skins'.